Footy starts tonight, and I’m cherry ripe for it. The pre-season of unsatisfying fake football and rampant speculation finally comes to an end, and there’s a general sense of enthusiasm and expectation around town. Around the office, people clump and gather to discuss the footy and contemplate their chances. Everyone’s a winner this time of year, and anything is possible, but that can change quickly.
There’s likely to be a big crowd tonight of around 90,000 for the season opener, and though it’s likely to be an easy win to Richmond, I’ll sitting there on my couch glued to it. The big game for me comes tomorrow night.
For the first time, I thought I’d give you the benefit of my wisdom by nominating what I believe will be the top eight at the end of the home and away season. It’s a tough gig because you’re basing it off last year’s form and the sketchy, misleading form shown in the pre-season. Players have come and gone, and switched clubs in the offseason, and how they fit in and what impact they have is no more than speculation right now. Come Monday it’ll be much easier because some true form will have been exposed, and most importantly, some idea of intensity and attitude will be revealed.
Anyway, here it is.
I’ve nominated Richmond for top spot because they’re the reigning premiers and it’s there’s to lose. I don’t expect them to go back to back, but if pre-season form is any guide, they’ll be mighty competitive at least. The unknown quantity is how their success has impacted on the. They could go the way of the Bulldogs and fall back, or – and I think this is more likely – the confidence gained will take them to a new level. Having said that they’ll now be the hunted, and will need to adapt.
Sydney is next because, well, they’re Sydney. GWS I’ve tipped with much less confidence. They have the talent but have been a disappointment. I think Leon Cameron is an average coach who has championed a one-way playing style. I think we’ll know quickly how they’ll go this year. If they improve their defensive efforts, they’ll be a real contender, but last year’s effort won’t cut it. They’re a team who could slide a lot – even out of the eight.
I’ve tipped my team at fourth, but it’s a guess. I think we’re the biggest enigma going into the season. Some have tipped us as premiers. Others reckon we’ll miss the finals. I think we’ll make the eight pretty comfortably, and likely finish somewhere in the 4-6 range – but there’s the talent to get on a run and finish top. Recruited really well, and play a dynamic style that can rip teams apart when they’re hot. High expectations, and should be an exciting year.
I think Adelaide will slide a little. They were shown up in the Grand Final, and I thought there were other occasions when they were exposed as great front-runners and struggled under pressure. Very skilled and dangerous when they’re on, I think they go into the season slightly weaker than they ended last year. They need a plan B.
Port Adelaide are another team who could do anything, but they’ve got a habit of being frail at the wrong time. Could easily finish top three, but also out of the eight.
Geelong is touted by many by the return of Ablett, but they’re an aging team who have lost a few stalwarts over the offseason. They have probably the best midfield group in the comp, but weaker up forward, and with Lonergan and Mackie gone, down back too. They’re invincible at home, but it plays against them away, especially at the MCG where the big games are played.
I rate Melbourne and reckon they’ll be a powerhouse for years to come (watch out for St Kilda and Brisbane, too). I’ve put them so low because two of their main players are missing for the first couple of months of the year – the position doesn’t reflect their quality. In my book, they’re smokies for the flag and will be coming hard come finals time.
Unlucky teams are Bulldogs, St Kilda and maybe Hawthorn – I don’t rate Collingwood. I could see St Kilda sneaking in because they’re a developing team; the Bulldogs possibly too, though they’ve gone through some ructions and lost at least one outstanding player. Hawthorn is a bit like the Swans, you don’t count them out, and Clarkson is bound to pull a rabbit out of the hat at some point.